📰 EwA News Digest: Goldman Environmental Prize, Eastern Lowland Gorillas, and Environmental Justice Executive Order

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Meghan Cahill

May 3, 2023, 10:01:25 AM5/3/23
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Hello, EwA community! It’s Meghan again with the May News Digest!

Every year, The Goldman Environmental Prize honors one grassroots activist from each of the six inhabited continents. This year is the 34th anniversary of the “Green Nobel Prize” founded in 1989 by U.S. philanthropists Rhoda and Richard Goldman. The 2023 prize winners are Alessandra Korap Munduruku from Brazil, Chilekwa Mumba from Zambia, Delima Silalahi from Indonesia, Diane Wilson from the U.S., Tero Mustonen from Finland, and Zafer Kızılkaya from Turkey. All of these people have done amazing services and sacrifices toward helping the environment in different ways.

With the decline of coral reef health in the Caribbean, one particular problem that has furthered this issue is the large die-off of long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antillarum) in the area. The sea urchins help these habitats flourish because they eat the algae that grow on the coral reefs, and without them, the algae can eventually smother the coral to death. A new study has shown that a parasite called a ciliate is the reason behind the mass deaths of this species. Researchers believe this pathogen could be linked to climate change, but more research still has to be done to better understand the issue.

Allergy season is now upon us and if you think to yourself that your allergies are getting worse every year that goes by, then you might be right. Atmospheric scientists study how the atmosphere affects trees and plants, and have found that the U.S. will face up to a 200% increase in pollen this century if we continue the rise in carbon dioxide emissions. The reason for this is that warmer temperatures will extend the growing seasons, allowing plants to emit pollen for longer. Besides extending the time frame, carbon dioxide also fuels photosynthesis leading to increased growth and potential for pollen production.

U.S. President, Joe Biden, recently signed an executive order on ‘environmental justice’. This executive order directs every single federal agency to work towards “environmental justice for all” to try to improve the lives of communities hit the hardest by climate change and pollution. The order established a new Office of Environmental Justice in the White House to coordinate these efforts across the government. Biden said he aims to reverse years of policies, including discriminatory residential ‘redlining’, that continue to hurt minority communities.

The arctic ice algae, Melosira arctica, which grows under sea ice, has been found to contain ten times as much microplastics as the surrounding seawater. This poses a threat to the bottom-dwelling creatures at the base of the food web that feed on the algae, eventually affecting the rest of the food web. The clumps of dead algae transport the plastic particularly quickly into the deep sea, due to the Melosira sinking microplastics directly to the bottom. This new research helps scientists to understand why they have been seeing high microplastic concentrations in the deep water sediment there. 

New images of two mother-infant pairs of eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) in the Democratic Republic of Congo have confirmed the presence of healthy family groups for a critically endangered species. Eastern lowland gorillas are heavily threatened by hunting, deforestation, and mining activities causing only 6,800 individuals left in the world. These gorillas are located in the Tayna Nature Reserve operated by the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) which is run by local Congolese communities who work together to protect this species. Gorillas are difficult to see in the wild, so to be able to see these families was a proud moment for the conservation efforts made by their team.

I hope you liked my last News Digest as EwA’s Spring Intern! I hope everyone enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed making them! 


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